Car Advice: Shopping For Tires

June 22, 2010

When you go to the movies you wouldn’t think of going up to the cashier without knowing the title of the show you wanted to see. The same thing goes for buying tires. The first thing you should do is go to the sidewall of your tires and write down the size. The number is going to say something like P235/75R15. Write it all down along with some information like 103T that is also on the sidewall. This should be all that you need along with the year, make and model of your vehicle, to intelligently shop for tires

The numbers 103 are the load range index and the letter is the speed rating. If you’re not sure that your current tires are the correct ones for your car consult the owner’s manual or the door post. If you are still in doubt ask the tire store person to confirm that the size you provided is right for your 2008 Lexus GS 460.

It’s always good to start with the brand and model of tire that was installed from the factory, since it was engineered for your car. Check the glove box for tire literature that is usually provided with each new car if the original tires are long gone. If you have other reasons for not matching the tires to the original, you should try to duplicate the generic information you initially wrote down.

All tires are rated in terms of their projected tread life. The sales person will tell you something like, “These are a 48,000 mile tire.” You shouldn’t construe this as any kind of guarantee. He’s just saying that if these tires were used and cared for in a tire Utopia you might get 48,000 miles out of them. This may or may not happen for you, but at least it establishes some kind of benchmark for you during your search.

Now for the morass that is brand comparison. There are plenty of tire brands that are household words like Goodyear, Firestone, and Continental not to mention Pirelli and Michelin. Those names and others that you will recognize when you hear them all make top quality tires or they wouldn’t be supplied as original equipment on many cars. However, within each brand there are quality stratifications that you should be aware of, so that you realize how a Goodyear Eagle LS compares to a Dunlop Signature. In other words all Goodyear tires are not the same.

Tire shopping does allow for some give and take, while not usually in the dollar price, but in those throw ins that come with the purchase. Free tire rotation is something that should be easy to acquire for nothing since it is really a marketing ploy to sell you additional service down the road. If you are on a roll you might even get roadside assistance, tire insurance and tire valve stems for a reduced price or for free.

Tire shopping is like any other inter-personal activity that involves negotiation. It takes preparation, perseverance and attention to detail. The good thing is that there is always someone that is anxious to make a sale.

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